PARIS, April 23 (Reuters) - Clermont Auvergne reached their third final in Europe’s premium club competition when their impressive start helped them to beat Leinster 27-22 in the semi-finals of the Champions Cup in Lyon on Sunday.
The French side, who lost their first two finals in 2013 and 2015, will face defending champions Saracens in Edinburgh after holding off three-time champions Leinster in a see-saw encounter.
Clermont scored two tries through Peceli Yato and David Strettle, with Morgan Parra kicking a conversion and two penalties and Camille Lopez scoring a penalty and two drop goals.
Leinster’s points came from Jonathan Sexton’s five penalties and only conversion, as well as Garry Ringrose’s jaw-dropping try.
Clermont were quick off the mark, with flanker Yato scoring an early try after collecting a fine Strettle pass.
Parra added the extras just before Leinster’s Isa Nacewa was sin-binned for a sly pull.
Parra converted the resulting penalty and after 13 minutes Clermont were 15-0 up as Strettle dived over after dancing past Dan Leavy and Joey Carbery.
Parra missed the conversion, then a penalty and the Irish side gradually fought their way back into the contest with Sexton scoring a penalty on the stroke of halftime.
Sexton added three penalties as Leinster edged close but Parra’s kick restored a six-point lead for the hosts and Lopez gave them more breathing space with a fine drop goal.
Ringrose’s dazzling run for a beautiful try and Sexton’s conversion set up a nail-biting finale.
Lopez, however, slotted home a penalty and a late drop goal to secure Clermont’s win, with Sexton managing to reduce the arrears two minutes from time. (Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Clare Fallon)